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Two health workers giving polio vaccines to children were shot dead in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, prompting the World Health Organisation to suspend its operations in the area. Anti-polio workers started being attacked after a Pakistani doctor, Shakeel Afridi, ran a fake polio campaign in the city of Abbottabad to help the United States track down Osama bin Laden, according to a senior health official in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the latest killings happened.
In her address to the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 20, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan spoke about the “deeply troubled times” we live in and referenced “assaults on health personnel and health care facilities in conflict situations,” which the World Health Organization condemns “in the strongest possible terms.”
Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and newly appointed UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa, has received the 2013 International Council of Nurses’ (ICN) Health and Human Rights Award. Formally presented at the ICN 25th Quadrennial Congress in Melbourne, Australia, the award bestows the esteem and recognition of the world’s 12 million nurses for Robinson’s outstanding contributions to the domain of health and human rights.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution, The situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, condemning human rights violations by Syria. The resolution makes note of attacks on hospitals and stating that the UN “Strongly condemns all attacks and threats of violence against humanitarian and medical personnel and against medical facilities and vehicles, in violation of international law, and the use of medical civilian facilities, including hospitals, for armed purposes, and calls for all medical facilities to be free of weapons, including heavy weapons, consistent with applicable international law.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a roundtable discussion on Attacks on Syria’s Medical Personnel and Facilities on May 10. Leonard Rubenstein, chair of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition, was one of the speakers, along with Zaher Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society (a member of Safeguarding Health in Conflict), Stephen Cornish of Médecins Sans Frontières, and Dorothy Shea of the US Department of State.
On May 15 the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition sent a letter to World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan urging her to include in her World Health Assembly opening address a forceful statement condemning attacks on doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel, and other health workers, particularly in Syria, which are taking place at an unprecedented level. The letter, which also has the support of the World Medical Association, called attention to a new study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Violent Incidents Affecting Health Care, which reported that at least 921 violent incidents against health care personnel, infrastructure, and wounded or sick people took place in 2012.
A new study by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), entitled “Violent Incidents Affecting Health Care,” reveals that at least 921 violent incidents against health-care personnel, infrastructure and wounded or sick people took place in 2012. The study conducted in 22 unnamed countries affected by armed violence underlines a worrying trend: assaults on health-care personnel, facilities and vehicles in conflicts and other emergencies leave millions around the world without care just when they need it most.
Humanitarian assistance groups in Washington are warning that the health care system has become a deliberate target in the increasingly brutal civil war in Syria, presenting major challenges to addressing the humanitarian and refugee crises spurred by the conflict.
A doctor who recently returned from a trip to Syria has condemned the “destruction of the Syrian health system” and attacks on medical staff. Zaher Sahloul, president of the Syrian American Medical Society and a doctor in Chicago, told a meeting convened to discuss attacks on health facilities in Syria about the fear under which many doctors work.
Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the toughest places for aid workers, who not only struggle to reach vulnerable people due to conflict, but are also killed for being seen to help opposing groups, the head of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said.